As energy costs continue to rise, many homeowners are looking for ways to stay warm in winter without cranking up the thermostat. The good news is that there are many simple, low-cost or no-cost ways to make your home cozier without burning through your utility budget. In this comprehensive guide, I will share my top tips for heating your home more efficiently.
Seal Air Leaks Around Windows and Doors
One of the easiest ways to improve your home’s energy efficiency is by sealing air leaks around windows, doors, electrical outlets and any other cracks or openings. I have found that cold drafts can sneak into the house, making it feel chillier.
I recommend using caulk and weatherstripping to seal gaps and prevent drafts. I start by checking windows and doors for air leaks. I can usually detect leaks if I feel a draft or see daylight peeking through. I then apply caulk around the window frames and door frames. I also install quality weatherstripping around the doors to block drafts.
Sealing these air leaks makes a noticeable difference, allowing me to keep the thermostat a few degrees lower without sacrificing comfort.
Add Insulation to Attics and Walls
Adding insulation is a great way to keep warm air inside your home during winter. I always recommend inspecting the attic, exterior walls, crawl spaces and basement to see if these areas could benefit from additional insulation.
For the attic, I look to see how much existing insulation is up there – a depth of at least 10-12 inches is ideal. If it is less than that, I will have more blown-in insulation added because it is an easy and affordable way to improve the energy efficiency of the home.
I also check the exterior walls for insulation. If there are gaps, I will use fiberglass batt insulation to fill them in. This helps prevent cold outdoor air from penetrating the walls.
Adding proper insulation to overlooked areas like the attic, walls, and crawlspaces could save me up to 25% on heating costs while keeping the home more comfortable.
Install Storm Windows or Plastic Film
During cold winter months, I lose a lot of heat through windows. To prevent drafts from leaky windows, I recommend installing storm windows or covering the windows with plastic film.
Storm windows create an additional air barrier over existing windows that reduces heat loss. Temporary plastic window film kits are also easy for me to install each winter. The plastic insulation helps reduce drafts and improves the R-value of the windows.
I put up the plastic film on my own using double-sided tape and a hair dryer to tighten it up. I make sure the plastic is sealed tightly in the window frame to prevent air leaks. This is an inexpensive project that makes a big difference in keeping cold air out.
Use Thick Curtains and Blinds
Here’s a simple way to add insulation around windows – use thick curtains and blinds. I put up thermal blackout curtains on windows that get direct sunlight during the day. At night, I make sure to close the curtains tightly to prevent heat from escaping through the windows.
I also installed insulating cellular blinds on several windows as an added barrier against cold drafts. Both the curtains and blinds add an extra layer of insulation, preventing indoor heat from being lost outside.
For maximum effectiveness, I look for curtains and blinds made from thick, thermal fabrics like velvet, quilted fabrics, fleece or wool. The extra thickness really helps trap heat inside.
Apply Draft Blockers on Doors
I recommend installing draft blockers at the bottom of exterior doors and doors between heated and unheated spaces. Draft blockers help me stop cold air from sneaking in under the doors.
There are many types of draft blockers to choose from. I prefer to use ones that match my existing decor. Options include:
Draft stopper tubes – These are long tubes filled with beads or pellets that you place in front of door. They conform to the space under the door and block drafts.
Door sweeps – These vinyl or brush seals attach to the bottom of the door. When closed, they form a tight seal to the floor.
Temporary sealed rugs – Large rugs that can be rolled up and placed at the base of exterior doors work nicely as temporary draft blockers.
I make sure to use draft blockers on doors leading to attics, basements, garages, or porches. Sealing these overlooked gaps can prevent heat from escaping.
Set the Water Heater Temperature Lower
Here’s an easy way to save energy without sacrificing comfort – lower the temperature on the water heater by several degrees. Most hot water heaters are set to around 140F by default.
I found that lowering it to 120F provides adequate hot water for tasks like washing dishes and taking showers. The lower temperature setting means the water heater doesn’t have to work as hard to heat the water.
Make sure you consult the instruction manual for your specific model before adjusting the temperature, as each heater is different. Just dialing it down 10 degrees or so will allow me to keep the home comfortably warm without tapping the water heater as much.
Reverse Ceiling Fan Direction
Ceiling fans are great to have in winter – instead of the typical downward flow, I reverse the fan so it pushes rising warm air back down into the room. Make sure the fan is set to low speed. This simple ceiling fan trick helps evenly distribute warmth from the ceiling throughout the room.
First, I turn the ceiling fan off and locate the switch that controls the direction. I flip the switch so the blades spin clockwise, pushing air up. The airflow should be gentle – if it’s too strong, I adjust the speed to the lowest setting.
Reversing the ceiling fans to redistribute rising heat is an effective way for me to take advantage of the natural air circulation patterns in the room.
Use Area Rugs
Placing area rugs over wood or tile floors is an easy way for me to make rooms feel warmer in winter. They provide insulation from the cold floor and prevent heat loss through the flooring materials. The thicker the rug, the better it will be at insulating.
I recommend using large area rugs in rooms where you spend the most time, like living rooms, bedrooms, dens and playrooms. Plush rugs made from wool are best, but any rug will provide some insulation benefits. Just the simple act of covering bare floors with a few rugs makes the whole room feel cozier.
Let Sunlight In
One of the easiest ways to warm up a room is by opening up the blinds or curtains and letting the free warmth from the sun in. On sunny winter days, I make sure to open all window coverings to allow sunlight to heat up the home naturally.
The sun’s radiant heat entering through the windows can raise the temperature in a room by several degrees, allowing me to keep the thermostat a bit lower. In the evenings, I close everything up tightly to retain the solar heat gained during the day.
To maximize this free heating source, I also focus on reducing shadows by arranging furniture so it does not block sunlight from entering the room. Keeping windows uncovered as much as possible during winter days takes advantage of the sun’s energy.
Zone Off Unused Areas
To prevent unnecessary heat loss, I zone off unused areas of the home like guest bedrooms, storage spaces or basements using air sealing techniques. This ensures I’m only heating rooms that are occupied.
Some ways I seal off unused spaces include:
- Installing rigid foam insulation in the attic over unheated areas
- Adding weatherstripping to basement doors
- Using draft stoppers or rugs at the base of staircases leading to unused floors
- Keeping doors to extra rooms closed so heat stays in occupied spaces
By focusing my heating efforts only on the rooms I use daily, I am able to keep the thermostat lower without sacrificing comfort where it matters most.
Take Advantage of Heat from Lighting, Appliances and People
An easy way to raise the temperature in a room is by taking advantage of heat given off by lighting, appliances and even people. I turn lights on to release a small amount of radiant heat. I also run appliances like computers, TVs and stoves during the day to make use of the excess heat they generate.
At night, I close the doors to rooms with people in them so their body heat gets trapped inside the smaller space. Things like aquariums, composting bins and other biological processes can provide a small amount of natural heat as well. Every bit of free warmth contributes to making the room feel toastier.
Staying comfortable at home during winter doesn’t require burning lots of additional energy. Using these innovative tips, I’m able to effectively heat my house without needing to constantly crank up the thermostat.
Proper sealing, insulation and taking advantage of free heat sources like sunlight allows me to lower my energy bills while still enjoying a cozy home all winter long. With a bit of effort and creativity, you can stay toasty warm without relying as heavily on your home heating system.